Apples have been grown commercially by the Bray family since the mid 1960s, taking over from cherries and sheep as the principal enterprise on the 39ha Monks Farm, located near Sittingbourne, Kent. For the past 26 years, Fendt has been the farm’s principal power unit, starting off in 1986 with a 57 hp 203V model and rising today to a fleet of four different Fendt narrow tractors, all of which play an important role within the business.
“Buying our first Fendt tractor was a step into the unknown. However, it’s a step that I am very glad we made.”
Simon pointed out that the farm’s newest Fendt – a 70 hp 207V Vario purchased in 2011 - was the first Fendt tractor specified with infinitely-variable Vario transmission plus air conditioning for added operator comfort.
“I use the 207V myself for spraying the trees with pesticides and foliar feeds,” he said. “It’s the best tractor I’ve ever driven, ideal for work in narrow orchard alleys. In my opinion, Fendt has got it spot-on with this tractor.”
A member of fruit growers’ marketing co-operative, Fruition PO, Simon Bray produces each year around 1,000 tonnes of dessert and culinary apples in orchards ranging in age from 18 months to 20 years old. Between six and seven per cent of the orchards are renewed each year, hitting peak production from year four or five onwards.
Around three-quarters of the fruit harvested by Simon each year is held on the farm in controlled-atmosphere storage ready for collection, as and when required, by Fruition PO and its marketing company, Worldwide Fruit, who pack and distribute the apples to Britain’s leading supermarkets. The remainder leave the farm after harvest destined for juice production or for immediate multiple sales.
All of the orchards at Monks Farm are planted with downthe-row tree spacings of 1.2 m and 3 m wide alleys which, says Simon, is a good match for his four Fendt tractors while maximising the land available for fruit production.
“We considered planting a little wider, but all of our Fendts are narrow vineyard models capable of moving comfortably along tight alleys and turning easily into adjacent rows. Although some fruit is dislodged from lower branches as harvest time approaches, our row spacings do provide a very good balance. The overall production benefits far outweigh any fruit drop losses incurred when row widths are at their narrowest in August and September.”
To maximise fruit growth and crop output, all of the orchards are pruned over winter assisted by the farm’s 80hp Fendt 208V tractor which follows up with a front-mounted pulveriser to shred and spread the prunings.
“We bought that specific tractor in 2004 to replace two ageing power units,” said Simon. “During the summer, it helps out with general cultivations and trailer work. Our fourth Fendt, a 50 hp 250V, arrived in 2001 initially as a spraying tractor, now dedicated to fertiliser spreading and use at harvest with a rear forklift."
The growing season starts in earnest in April with a spraying campaign against scab and mildew. “These are our two biggest threats, requiring countertreatments every seven to ten days,” explained Simon. “The air-blast sprayer is rarely removed from the Fendt 207V Vario as the combination is used also to apply liquid feeds every spray round throughout the summer months.”
Confessing that he has been a Fendt fan since 1986, Simon points out that he remains fully committed to the brand and can think of no better tractor for specialist narrow row crop work.